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Battle of Preston (1715)

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Battle of Preston (09-14 Nov 1715)

Background

In October and early November of 1715, a Jacobite army of around 1,600 Highlanders, commanded by Brigadier William Mackintosh of Borlum, a veteran soldier who had spent much of his career in the French Army, left Fife moving through East Lothian and then moved south of the border. The core of the Highland force was the 700-strong Mackintosh Regiment under the command of Lachlan Mackintosh of Mackintosh, the clan chief and a nephew of Borlum’s. The Jacobites under Borlum also included a number of men from the Eastern Lowlands, many of them from Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Angus. Mackintosh joined forces with a small army of borderers and Galloway men under Viscount Kenmure at Kelso. In addition, a number of English Jacobites from Northumberland, led by the local MP Thomas Forster, joined Mackintosh and Kenmure. The Earl of Mar decided for political reasons that Forster should command the Jacobite army in England. This was an appalling military decision however Forster brought a significant number of troops, although, as will be seen, with little experience and no will to fight. Indeed Mackintosh, in his correspondence with Mar, was appalled by both the quality and quantity of the English Jacobites and it was only with the greatest reluctance that Mackintosh was persuaded to advance into England.

Thomas Forster moved south through north England with little opposition with the intent of raising the Jacobites in Lancashire. By the time they reached Preston, in Lancashire, had grown to about 4,000 in number. Their horse troops entered Preston on the night of 9 November 1715, and, as they approached, two troops of Government dragoons and part of a militia regiment retreated to Wigan.

The Government Force, under General Charles Wills, comprising one regiment of the line (The Cameronians) and six cavalry Regiments, left Manchester on 11 November, arriving at Preston on the 12th. By far the majority of this force were Scottish. The Cameronians, then known as Preston’s Regiment after their colonel George Preston, comprised the infantry element. Many of these Regiments had fought with Marlborough and were based in Ireland before being mobilised for England in mid 1715.

Forster, a man with no battlefield or leadership experience, decided to remain in Preston.

Siege

On the 12th Nov, immediately after arriving, Wills ordered an attack. The attack occurred in two columns. One, under Brigadier Philip Honeywood, spearheaded by the Cameronians, under Lieutenant Colonel George Baillie, better known as Lord Forrester of Costorphine, entered the town via Church Street. The second column, commanded by Brigadier James Dormer would swing north and attack down the Lancaster Road. The attack had some success but was repulsed by the Mackintosh Regiment. The remainder of day saw sniper fire. Wills then ordered the Government troops, at both the eastern and northern sides of Preston, to set fire to the houses to attempt to force the Jacobites out of their defensive positions.

Many Jacobites, predominantly the English from Northumberland, left the army on the night of the 12th.

On the 13th, Wills, with more Government forces, Lt-General Carpenter and three regiments of dragoons, encircled the town. With his force diminishing Forster accepted an offer to negotiate terms.

Wills refused to treat with the "Highlanders" (a term which generally applied to all the Scots) and they were disbarred from any settlement. Forster accepted an unconditional surrender on the 14th Nov which excluded the Highlanders, around 1,700, in his force. When Government forces entered Preston, the Scots, who had not been informed of their exclusion from the treaty, were lined up in expectation of surrender.

Aftermath

Seventeen Jacobites were killed and twenty-five wounded. Government casualties were close to 300 killed and wounded. 1,468 Jacobites were taken prisoner, 463 of them English. Six captured Jacobite officers were immediately court-martialed following the surrender as deserters and four were executed by firing squad. A number of officers, all Scottish, were sentenced for execution. Some of these escaped the Tower. All of the English were pardoned. Around half of the 1,300 rank and file Jacobites captured were sold into seven year indentures in the American colonies and West Indies. Many appears on the Lists of the ships Elizabeth and Anne. One group of 30 prisoners managed to overcome the crew of the ship transporting them across the Atlantic and sailed it to France.

A somewhat bias account can be found in letters, to the Government, of the battle contained in the National Archives. Wills, in an attempt to cover up his impetuosity, is believed to have reported fewer casualties in his dispatch when he reported 142 dead and wounded. A number of mass graves were uncovered during 19th Century construction work in Preston and recent estimates put the total Government casualties at closer to 300 men. The Cameronians, alone, suffered 92 dead and seriously wounded.


Wikipedia: Battle of Preston (1715)





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